The A’s may not boast one of the more prolific rotations in baseball but entering the season they certainly featured one of the deepest. Now with Felix Doubront lost to Tommy John Surgery and one of my favorite sleepers, Chris Bassitt, likely facing a similar fate, the rotation suddenly looks a tad shallower. So this week we look at two pitchers available in a vast majority of leagues who’ve either made it back to the East Bay or who we can expect to arrive there shortly.
Jesse Hahn (7% Yahoo, 8.6% ESPN, 23% CBS) – Hahn pitched well last season in just under 100 innings before ultimately succumbing to elbow inflammation and forearm tightness. Overall, he finished the season with a 3.35 ERA, sub-4 FIPs, and a 1.17 WHIP. So it was a bit of a surprise that even after a rocky spring, the A’s sent him down to Nashville to work on his command. After all, Hahn was widely considered to be one of Oakland’s three best starters at the outset of the year.
Hahn’s 2015 peripherals were a mixed bag but hinted at future promise. His ground ball rate would have ranked 14th in baseball just behind teammate Sonny Gray had he pitched enough innings to qualify. Hahn also posted the lowest BB/9 of his young career (including MiLB) so it was a little discouraging to see his control escape him as he walked 7 in just over 15 spring innings.
The walks were still an issue in Nashville but he pitched well enough for the A’s to promote him, albeit after Sean Manaea. In his first 2016 MLB start, Hahn went 6 and 2/3rd innings, walking just 2, striking out 4, and inducing ground balls more than ¾ of the time. And then there’s this:
It’s too early to draw any conclusions but if Hahn pairs the elite ground ball rates he’s displayed over his career with this newly found velocity, we can afford a little more patience while he struggles to regain his command. Hahn likely won’t be available in deeper CBS leagues but can still be plucked in many Yahoo and ESPN formats.
Henderson Alvarez (1% Yahoo, 2.3% ESPN, 7% CBS) – first Doubront, then Bassitt. Next up? It’s hard to say. Perhaps Manaea struggles to adjust to Major League hitting and the A’s demote him. Or Kendall Graveman’s home run problems turn out to be more fact than fiction and he winds up in the bullpen. Or Hahn’s elbow issues resurface. Or Rich Hill V.15-16 relapses into V.08-14. Or Buster Olney’s premature trade musings prove…mature. There’s quite a bit of volatility in this rotation so with Alvarez on the mend, it’s more a question of when than if.
So far Alvarez has made three rehab starts, totaling 9 innings over which he’s struck out 6, walked just 1, and induced his typically unfair share of ground balls. It’s been difficult finding reliable reports on his velocity but it looks like he was around 90-94 in his last start, which is in-line with his career averages. Alvarez won’t help you in strikeouts but remember, this is the same guy who from 2013-2015 allowed just 0.49 home runs and 1.93 walks per nine while hanging a 54% ground ball rate on NL hitters.
The risks here are obvious. Alvarez is clawing his way back from shoulder surgery and moving to the AL. But the change in ballpark is hardly drastic and if you act quickly he won’t cost much to acquire. The A’s have quietly put together an excellent ground ball-heavy rotation this season so it’s not hard to see them adding Alvarez to their shrinking stable of worm burners at some point soon.